Everyone seems to agree that no good outcome is possible in Gaza. They're wrong. It's possible for a decent Gaza-led administration to emerge, which could make autonomy and even statehood possible.
That may seem unlikely, given the deep and longstanding anti-Zionism in Gaza. In 1967, Gazan school books taught arithmetic with problems like, "You have five Israelis. You kill three of them. How many Israelis are left to be killed?"
But over the past 15 years, Gazans have endured something monstrous and possibly unique in human experience: exploitation by their rulers as cannon fodder for public relations
Tyrants' treating their subjects as expendable to attain battlefield victory is routine—think Wagner Group prison recruits dying in Bakhmut, Ukraine. Hamas, however, uses civilians to score propaganda points. It attacks Israel to provoke retaliation, correctly expecting that the bombs, destruction and death will bring Iranian approbation, Islamist support, Muslim solidarity and leftist sympathy. After each attack, the narrative about culpability invariably shifts from Hamas to Israel.
Much evidence suggests that most Gazans don't want to serve as pawns in an obsessive and illusory jihad against Israel. Why suffer for a lost cause? "These people profess Islam and claim to be religious, but they slaughtered people," one Gazan observes.
Polls find overwhelming support among Gazans for the statement that "Palestinians should push harder to replace their own political leaders with more effective and less corrupt ones." A July poll by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy foundthat 62% of Gazans wanted to keep a cease-fire with Israel and half wanted Hamas to stop calling for Israel's destruction.
For years, Gazans have voted with their feet. "Hamas has billions of dollars in investments in many countries, while people [in Gaza] starve to death and migrate in search of work," anti-Hamas activist Amer Balosha noted last year. Interviewed in September while waiting in long lines to leave, Gazans expressed despair. "All those who are seeking to emigrate want a dignified life . . . they are prepared to die." "I know I'm risking my life, but I want to leave, dead or alive."
Gazans led normal lives under Israeli rule; unsurprisingly, they want to do so again. Gaza and the West Bank in the 1970s, historian Efraim Karsh recounts, "constituted the fourth fastest-growing economy in the world—ahead of such 'wonders' as Singapore, Hong Kong, and Korea, and substantially ahead of Israel itself." Medicine, electricity, schools, literacy—all flourished. Gazans benefited from refrigerators and running water.
All this implies that, on seizing control of Gaza, Israel can reasonably expect to find plenty of residents ready to work with the new authority to create an administration that could return them to normal life.
Israel failed to find decent partners during its previous occupation, when it made no effort to cultivate friendly relations with Gazans and handed the territory to Yasser Arafat. Hamas has now done Israel's work. Where is Gaza's Konrad Adenauer?
Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.